Showing posts with label St. Mary's Parochial School. Show all posts
Showing posts with label St. Mary's Parochial School. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ajayi Crowther Bicentennial Celebrations

Samuel Ajayi Crowther (c. 1809 - 31 December 1891}, the first Black Anglican bishop, was a Yoruba, one of the oldest and most advanced tribes in the region that comprises today's Nigeria. As a teenager, Ajayi, or Adjai, became something of an entrepreneur, raising poultry and produce. His fledgling enterprise was cut short when, in 1822, he - along with other members of his family - were abducted by Muslims, taken to the coast, sold to Portuguese slave traders, and put aboard the misnamed Esperanza Feliz, bound for America. The third day out, a British ship captured the Esperanza and freed its human cargo. Ajayi was then taken to Freetown, Sierra Leone and placed in a missionary school. As he later wrote, "about the third year of my liberation from the slavery of man, I was convinced of another worse slavery, that of sin and Satan. It pleased the Lord to open my heart." Baptized in Africa on December 11, 1825, he was given the name of an English clergyman, Samuel Crowther, one of the first members of the Church Missionary Society,.

It then pleased the Lord to send Crowther to England, specifically to Islington, where he studied at St Mary's Parochial School, then located on Liverpool Road. Returning to Sierra Leone in 1827, he enrolled as the first student at the newly established Fourah Bay College. So rapid was his progress that he soon became an assistant teacher, then a schoolmaster. In Church Missionary Society reports of the time, he was frequently described as a faithful and efficient promoter of missionary efforts. Crowther was particularly concerned about the effect of trafficking in whiskey and the slave trade, which - though formerly abolished in 1838 - continued in the interior of the continent. He returned to Islington in 1842, where he trained at the Church Missionary Society's college (see illustration #50). The next year, he was ordained at St Mary's, then returned to Africa.

In 1851, Crowther returned to England for a meeting with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to discuss the slave situation. His eloquence resulted in a British expedition to the Niger, which Crowther joined, and which helped mark the end of the African slave trade. Among other accomplishments, Crowther was proficient in languages, which aided him immensely in his Evangelical work. He was the chief translator of the Bible into the Yoruba language, and composed both a Yoruba grammar and dictionary.

In 1864, he was called once again to England, this time for a singular honor - to be ordained a bishop of the Anglican Church. His promoters, anxious that he obtain a university degree before being consecrated, cited his several publications as proof of his knowledge. With almost universal consent, he received his degree. Then, on June 29, 1864, in Canterbury Cathedral, he was consecrated Bishop of the Niger. Among those in attendance was the former captain of the British ship that had rescued him from bondage forty-two years earlier.

Upon his return to Nigeria, Crowther continued his work with humility and devotion. Old ways still remained, however, and his work - as had been the case with Philip Quaque before him - was often met with frustration and defeat. Still, he carried on, until his death at Lagos on January 9, 1892. He had fought the good fight for some sixty years. Among all men associated with St Mary's, Samuel Ajayi Crowther deserves to be remembered.

See the "Ajayi Crowther Bicentennial Celebrations"